How to sell yourself to sales candidates
Competition in the sales industry may be about to get a little tougher.

The latest data from SEEK Employment Trends shows a year-on-year increase in job ads across key sales areas, such as Business Development and Account Management. When it comes to attracting and retaining the best sales talent, experts say employers need to reconsider how they are selling themselves to candidates.

Steve Ludlow, director of specialist sales recruitment company Harlow Group, says the market for sales professionals is heating up.

“Demand for sales professionals is as high as we've seen it in the nine years we've been specialising in this space,” he says.

“This is driven by a shortage of skills available in the Australian market and the gap is widest in the tech space, where the growth in technology demand is outstripping the rate at which talent is being developed.”

Competition for talent

Opportunities for business development roles increased by 12% during the three-month period of January to March compared to the same period 12 months ago.

Jennifer Kenworthy, Manager - Marketing and Sales Recruitment at Six Degrees Executive, says demand in centred in key areas.

“We are seeing growth in roles for challenger brands and in new channel development as companies look to drive revenue in areas such as food service and quick service restaurants,” she says.

“Employers are looking for strong sales orientation skills, commercial capability to identify and drive new revenue opportunities, the ability to build and implement comprehensive business plans and account management skills to build and grow new business and convert opportunities.”

Job ads for account managers are also on the rise with growth of 15% on SEEK compared to the same time last year. 

“Demand for account managers remains strong,” says Ludlow./p>

“Key to these roles is a strong customer focus, complex problem-solving skills and an innate commercial curiosity.”

Kenworthy says demand for sales analysts is also increasing and the latest SEEK data shows opportunities for Analysis & Reporting roles grew by 4% year-on-year.

“Retailers are increasingly using data to tell a story, informing how sales teams develop customer plans and how category teams develop category plans,” she says.

“Storytelling through numbers is a growing tool being used by more retailers to perform range reviews and develop new product initiatives.

Working for entertainment

With demand for sales talent on the rise, workplace culture is proving to be a strong selling point for employers.  At Southern Cross Austereo (SCA), Australia’s largest entertainment company, culture is viewed as a competitive edge.

Home to radio stations such as Triple M and 86 free-to-air TV signals throughout regional Australia, predominantly under the Nine Network brand, SCA is also home to Australia's largest metro-based radio and regional TV sales team, with approximately 600 sales people among its 1,800 full-time employees.

Arthur Georgiou, SCA’s Strategic Recruitment Manager, says company culture is vital in attracting and retaining a strong sales team.

“We’re a values-driven organisation and our approach to recruitment is vital in maintaining and building our culture,” he says.

“Sales candidates have their choice of employers, so we make culture our competitive advantage. We don’t just recruit for ‘culture fit’, we also recruit for ‘culture add’.”

Georgiou explains that SCA invests in a smooth recruitment process.

“We receive a high volume of applicants, so we’ve streamlined our application form so they take only two minutes to complete – we want to make it as easy as possible for everyone,” he says.

“We also make sure our job ads are very specific in terms of the skills and qualities we’re looking for and that the language in our ads is gender neutral.”

When a new recruit starts at SCA, Georgiou says they are given all the tools they need to succeed, including bespoke training opportunities.

“We know that career development is important to people, so we do what we can to help people take the next step,” he says.

“We have a good track record with about a third of our roles filled through promotions and internal transfers.”

SCA also provides employees with additional perks, such as health insurance discounts, workplace banking programs, concert tickets and opportunities for flexible working.

“The sales industry is extremely competitive, so we make sure our culture is a strong drawcard,” says Georgiou.

Selling to candidates

Sales candidates are looking beyond the bottom line when it comes to choosing their next employer. Kenworthy says companies need to work harder to sell their value proposition.

“Traditional elements of providing career growth and strong development opportunities are still important, however employers need to provide the opportunity for candidates to connect with them on both a social and professional level,” she says.

“Providing broader employee health and wellbeing benefits and allowing employees to get some skin in the game through equity plans is also helping to make employers appear more attractive.”

Sales candidates are also attracted to successful work environments, says Ludlow.

“With sales targets becoming increasingly difficult to reach, sales professionals are looking for organisations that are innovative in their sales enablement practices with a strong alignment between sales and marketing divisions,” he says.

With demand for sales candidates in key roles on the rise, Ludlow says employers must work on their own selling points.

“Sales people are looking for successful, collaborative teams who are winning.”